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A poem about friendship

Astrid and Veronika - Linda Olsson

Linda Olsson's novel Astrid and Veronika is an ode to friendship, to love, which should always be embraced when it unexpectedly arrives. The unlikely friendship between Astrid and Veronika begins soon after Veronika moves into the home next to Astrid's. Veronika, a 30-ish author, has come to this somewhat isolated place to gather her thoughts and creative energy for her next novel, and to heal from the recent events of her life. Astrid is a 70-ish recluse, having retreated from life in response to the sorrows of her life. 


Unexpectedly, they find in each other a friend, a confident, someone with whom to share their stories without judgment, with nothing but acceptance. It remains a mystery how this came about, how each was able to let down her guard and reveal her self and her life to the other. Perhaps each had a need to be seen and heard in that way, and serendipitously found each other in time. Perhaps it was the remoteness of the location with just those two as neighbors. Perhaps this alchemy can never be explained, just embraced when one is lucky enough to find it.


This is a quiet, reflective book, with lessons about how to live your life, how to claim your life as your own. 



The Huntress/FBI Thrillers

Huntress Moon - Blood Moon - Cold Moon


These three books by Alexandra Sokoloff make for great summer (or anytime!) reading. The 3 thrillers trace the search of FBI agent Roarke and his team for a female serial vigilante killer. Book 1 introduces us to the fascinating lead characters and begins the exploration of the theme of the unfathomable lines between our destiny and randomness, between our unconscious ways of knowing and something more that speaks to us. These themes becomes stronger throughout the three books. The third book delves more in depth with the issue of human trafficking, a disturbing trend that appears to be on the rise.


The books are fast-paced, suspenseful, captivating. The prose is highly cinematic, I won't be surprised to see these books become movies.


I just pre-oredered Bitter Moon - due out Fall 2016. Can't wait.


The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel - Elizabeth J. Church

This well-crafted debut novel by Church centers around Meridian, a woman ahead of her time in her scholarly ambitions but trapped in her time by societal expectations. She falls in love with a professor several years her senior who is recruited to work at Los Alamos. Theirs is a marriage of minds more than hearts which down the road leads to estrangement.


Meridian gives up her graduate studies in ornithology to be with him at Los Alamos, a decision that weighs her down throughout the novel. Despite her choice to support her husband's career at the cost of her own, Meridian finds ways to keep her intellectual curiosity engaged with her notebooks of observations on crow behavior, and her emotional life alive with a good friend or two along the way and a surprising relationship with a hippy geologist she encounters in the desert.


The novel describes a woman and the era in which she lived. It made me glad that I was born a generation later and was given more choices. But no matter the time and place in which you live, life will present you with some hard choices that determine your path forward. You might as well make peace with that.

Why are we so gullible?

Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood - Claire P. Hoffman

In this engaging episodic journey, Hoffman tells the story of her life growing up with a largely absent alcoholic father and a mother looking for salvation in the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the TM Transcendental Meditation movement. The book is brilliantly written with a sharp eye towards the ironic and the ridiculous, balanced with compassion and understanding of the sincerity of TM's adherents.


The followers of TM felt they had found TRUTH in capital letters and that their personal spiritual journeys collectively would help usher in World Peace. Why are we so gullible? As the author notes in her epilogue, "I wanted the idea of faith and meaning to not be a socially constructed illusion ... nor a masterful fraud by a malevolent con man, but an accessible worldview." Here is the fatal flaw: wanting to believe that there are answers, answers that are universally true, beautiful and cohesive, TRUE in capital letters.


Ultimately the author found peace with her mother's choice to move her family into the TM community in Fairfield Iowa. The author clearly sees the flawed man at the heart of TM and the foolish complicity of his followers, but she walked away with something to hold on to: the meditation techniques that still provide her some momentary points of peace against the incessant noise of life. Her descriptions of her meditative practice remind me of a favorite quote from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse: Within you, there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat any time and be yourself.


What does this book teach us about seeking TRUTH and our gullibility in following those who claim to have found it? Perhaps it is arrogance that leads us to want answers and arrogance that keeps us fenced in the corral of our delusions. One of my favorite Bible stories is of Job, who complains to God of his ordeals and is shut down with God's booming voice putting him in his place: were you there when I created the heavens and the earth? did you call yourself into being? No? then who are you to question me?


What if this is the only TRUTH: that we cannot transcend the level of wondering to the divine heights of knowing. We cannot know and should be skeptical of those who claim to know. To seek is human, to find is dangerous.

The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens

I've always enjoyed a good mystery novel, and I found this one to be enjoyable on many levels. It's a heart-pounding page-turner, with complex, fully-developed main characters, and Eskens has moments of stunning prose. I knew I would like this book from the well-crafted opening paragraph in which Eskens so fittingly translates a feeling of dread into words that paint a picture and perfectly evoke the feeling.


The narrator, Joe Talbert, is a college kid with a disfunctional family background, trying to set a different path for his own life. And yet his family situation enmeshes him in ways he cannot escape. We all have dreams of who we want to be and how we want to live, and sometimes our family obligations are the clamorous alarms that interrupt our lovely dreams, day after day. How we deal with this challenge defines who we are, as Joe discovers.


The plot is engaging, as we watch Joe encounter situations that could only be arranged by the Fates, and wince as Joe makes decisions that only a 20-something guy could think were good ideas.


The Life we Bury is about letting the snow of secrets cover and conceal our worst actions, and how futile this concealment is. Sooner or later, the heat of truth melts away our deceptions and we must come to terms with what we have concealed.